On the ground: Alumnus battles the nightmare in Liberia

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As the deadly infection rages through West Africa, faculty, students, and alumni are waging a counterattack: on the ground, in the lab, on the humanitarian front, and in the political sphere. A special report by Harvard Public Health editor Madeline Drexler.

The first Ebola case that Mosoka Fallah saw with his own eyes was in early April 2014. The woman had come from Lofa County, in northwestern Liberia. She had cared for her brother, who died of the infection. Sickened herself, she took a taxi bound for Monrovia, the capital. She stayed one night in a crowded squatters’ district named Chicken Soup Factory, left the next morning, and died. Miraculously, no one else was infected.

Fallah, M.P.H. ’12, saw his second case on June 27. A young woman—the only surviving member of a family of seven who had died from Ebola—was brought from neighboring Sierra Leone by her uncle. They made their way to New Kru Town, a coastal suburb of Monrovia. She died and was buried by her relatives—five of whom contracted Ebola and also died. The woman’s infection spread to hospital staffers, who died. By now, Fallah had read extensively about the highly transmissible and fatal infection. He knew that the country’s defenses were weak—the bureaucracy slow and resources meager—and that health workers were chasing outbreaks instead of anticipating them.